Monthly Mini Review
Still Standing by Kristen Ashley, narrated by Erin Mallon (with Jason Clarke) – B One of my favourite Kristen Ashley books is Motorcyle Man. Which is just as well as this book is basically Motorcycle Man 2.0. There were enough differences to keep me interested but so many similarities, from the names of the main characters (Tack/Buck and Tyra/Clara) to the fact that Buck has two children, a boy and a girl from a previous marriage, complete with an evil-ex. (In fact, speaking of similar names, Buck’s daughter is Tatiana. Tack’s daughter is Tabitha and they are approximately the same ages). Like Tyra, Clara has a best friend who is in trouble and who brings drama to her door, albeit in different ways. Like Tyra, Clara ends up working at the MC’s business (which is a hardware store and contracting business instead of a custom car business and autoparts shop). Clara also wears tight skirts and “librarian” blouses and spike heels. There is even a cop who is the stand-in for the Mitch Lawson character from the earlier book. It’s familiar in a way that works if you liked Motorcycle Man. Like Chaos, Aces High are a clean club and there are the usual biker characters we’ve seen before, up to and including the one who cheats on his partner with a biker groupie (who causes trouble for Buck and Clara). Clara supplies baked goods to the bikers, Buck is a good cook – although he does great hamburgers rather than pork chops. Tatiana gets into trouble and Clara comes to her rescue and this causes a drama between she and Buck – if this sounds familiar it’s because it is.
Buck and Clara aren’t Tack and Tyra and the story does more than search and replace their names. I’m not complaining. I was hoping for another Tack and while Buck didn’t quite live up to him, he was, for the most part, a very satisfying hero. There was that one thing however…
CW: There was one scene which was not okay and which could be interpreted as domestic abuse. It wasn’t quite that for me but Buck does, in extremis (and when trying to get to his daughter who had been assaulted), put his hands on Clara to move her forcefully out of his way. He causes bruising on her arms and on the back of her shoulder where she hit the wall. I’m not attempting to make excuses for him here. It was way not okay. I was, in the end, satisfied that it wasn’t something that would be repeated and that Buck was truly remorseful (it took a while for him to actually accept he needed to “get a lock on it” rather than for Clara’s behaviour to be modified in order to avoid a repeat and he gets absolutely zero points for that) but it was, at base, very much not okay behaviour for a hero of a romance novel. There will be readers who will not forgive Buck’s behaviour in a similar way (but not the same way) that some readers could not accept Tack’s habit of putting his hand around Tyra’s throat. The difference between Tack and Buck here is that Tack actually had a benign reason and was not violent about it. (Still, it was too much for some readers and that’s fair enough.) Buck however caused bruising and scared Clara with his action. That it was a one-off isn’t good enough. While I was able to get past it in the book it’s not the sort of thing I could do IRL.
The narration was very good. There was one thing I didn’t love – Buck has a habit of calling Clara “Toots” as in short for “Tootsie”. From time to time Erin Mallon made it sound closer to a word that rhymes with “tuts” than a shorter version of Tootsie but other times she pronounced it as I’d have expected. The final chapter and epilogue is told from Buck’s POV and Jason Clarke narrates this section. He is called upon to say “Toots” three or four times and the first example was rhymes with “boots” (“toots a horn”) which was a choice. The other times were right though. Most of the narration was by Erin Mallon however so the bulk of my appreciation of the performance is due to her efforts. She has good pacing, tension and emotion and a wide variety of character voices, complete with a gravelly-toned voice for Buck.
If the CW is something you can look past and if Motorcycle Man was your jam, Still Standing is a good investment.
Coming Soon on Audio
Reviews of these books will be up soon at AudioGals.
Here’s what you may have missed:
Sugarcoated by Erin Nicholas, narrated by Jason Clarke & Lili Valenti
Gentleman Wolf by Joanna Chambers, narrated by Hamish McKinlay
Joint Custody by Lauren Baratz-Logsted & Jackie Logsted, narrated by Barrett Leddy